As Monday night was concluding, I settled in my barkin’ lounger with a nice big glass of wine intently waiting for the pilot episode of ‘The Following’ to start.  During commercial breaks, I’d log onto and read JJ’s latest article on Tony Gonzalez (in between sipping on my vino of course).  An hour later, the wine was consumed and the article was read, with the word “Nevermore” burned into my brain.  If you watched the episode, you’ll know what I mean.  If you didn’t, I’ve completely lost you and I apologize. Regardless, when I hear the word “Nevermore”, I automatically think of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven”- and that’s how this idea spawned in my head.

So after reading JJ’s write up on the legend that is Tony Gonzalez, I got to thinking about how disappointing the tight end position truly was this year.  It didn’t help matters when Rob Gronkowski went down with a broken arm, or when his teammate, Aaron Hernandez, was rolled on from behind by Julian Edelman. And, of course, Jimmy Graham didn’t make things any better by playing banged up for most of the season.

Wasn’t this supposed to be the deepest year for fantasy tight ends?

The numbers were putrid. God awful. Bleh. But in a year where the position was so disappointing, I think there’s one tight end (aside from Gronk, Hernandez, and Graham, of course) that can be a difference maker come 2013.  That man is Dennis Pitta.

You remember the name: he was really good the first 3 weeks of the season, then fell off a cliff.  I remember grabbing him off the waiver wire after Week 1 and claiming the ‘ship to be mine.  This would be my ticket to Titletown – he was my golden goose.

At the beginning of the season, he was leading the league in targets at the tight end position and was a huge redzone target for JJ’s mancrush, Joe Flacco (sarcasm).  After Week 3 was in the books, the BYU product had an impressive stat line of 29 targets, 18 receptions, 188 yards, 2 touchdowns.  I think we all can agree that a 10.2 points per game average for your tight end is like finding a $20 bill in your raggedy old Levi’s. It’s pure awesomeness.

But then, something happened. Something heinous. There was something rotten in the state of Maryland, and that something was Cam Cameron.

Following the elite-like tight end numbers the first 3 weeks had brought us, the next 5 were whatever’s worse than the opposite end of the spectrum to that.  He was now the epitome of a polished turd. Pitta amassed just 14 receptions for a grand total of 121 yards and 0 touchdowns over this span, “good” for a 2.4 points per game average. Fresh off his arrival to Titletown, I then welcomed Pitta to Drop City: a spacious place with upside and disappointment.

While mulling over his future with my fantasy football team (Turd and Long) in Purgatory, Pitta would have one good game, followed by one bad game.  Then another good, then another bad.  “He can’t be trusted,” I kept telling myself.  Flacco and Cameron were pure evil in my mind. I was mentally purified of all that was Pitta.

Then, something miraculous happened. Something glorious.  Cameron was relieved of his duties, leaving the offensive play calling to long time NFL veteran, Jim Caldwell.  Cameron garnered so much hate in both the fantasy community and Baltimore that people cheered his upheaval, yet welcomed Caldwell into their small circle of trust. And Caldwell was a coach who had never called a single offensive play in the NFL.

Caldwell quickly got the tight end involved during his first try as the Raven’s offensive coordinator. Pitta ended his first game under Caldwell to the tune of 7 receptions, 125 yards, and 2 scores.  In his last 6 games (playoffs included), Pitta surpassed the 50 yard mark 4 times and scored 4 times as well.  What impressed me most about him was the fact he got completely laid out by Jarod Mayo in the AFC Championship game, held on to the ball, got up, and caught a 5-yard touchdown on the very next play. Needless to say, he was back on my radar.

Pitta finished the 2012 fantasy football campaign as the seventh best tight end in standard scoring leagues (61 receptions, 669 yards, 7 TDs). That’s not too shabby considering he basically took the middle of the season off. What’s even more encouraging is the fact he finished as the fourth best tight end in standard leagues during the final four weeks of the season. And that’s with minimum snaps in Week 17.  Only Aaron Hernandez (sans Gronk), Jason Witten, and Jimmy Graham were ranked higher, with the difference between Pitta and the top tight end, Hernandez, being less than six points.

There are plenty of qualities to like about Dennis Pitta going into 2013.  Caldwell has just been re-signed and will return as the offensive coordinator, and Flacco will most likely be back as well given his epic playoff run (I use the word epic only to infuriate JJ).  Pitta will be going into his fourth season and he’s clearly starting to “get it”. Flacco has realized he is a better quarterback when throwing to him as opposed to not throwing to him. Torrey Smith will be going into his third year (the golden year for receivers) and Anquan Boldin will still need to be accounted for by opposing defenses.

Oh yes, there should be plenty of opportunity for Pitta to improve upon his numbers in’13.

What may be even more enticing for Pitta going into 2013 is his Average Draft Position (ADP).  As of right now, according to mock drafts (The ADP data obtained is current, beginning from December 31st.), Pitta is being drafted as the 18th tight end, around pick 150. That’s the 12th/13th rounds in twelve team leagues.

This will change as we get closer to the 2013 season and his ADP will no doubt trend up.  If you’re in a dynasty league and own Tony Gonzalez, Pitta will be a great trade target for you with Gonzo’s looming retirement.

One thing we know is ADP will always change.  Stocks go up and down on a daily basis.  If 2012 taught us anything, though, it’s to be patient when selecting a tight end in your fantasy drafts when Gronk, Hernandez, and Graham are off the board.  Let the others draft Antonio Gates or Jermichael Finley while you stockpile running backs and wide receivers, because you know your man will be there later.

I shall never be confined, nor chained to these floors,

In a Cam Cameron offense, without open doors.

2013 will be different, not like before,

Quoth this Raven, Nevermore.